For the first time in 12 years, Newton County will elect a new sheriff.

For the first time in 12 years, Newton County will elect a new sheriff.
Ken Copeland announced Monday he will not run for re-election and will retire at the end of his term Dec. 31.
“It’s been an honor and a privilege to serve the citizens of Newton County,” Copeland said. “I’d certainly like to take this time to thank them for their trust and their confidence in me that they’ve allowed me to be their sheriff the last 12 years.”
Copeland will conclude a 34-year career in law enforcement, serving the Joplin Police Department for 17 years and another 17 years with the sheriff’s office, including three four-year terms as sheriff.
“Working with people and working with the officers,” Copeland said of what provided satisfaction in his career. “The most satisfying feeling I’ve had is being able to help somebody, and I feel like I have. I’ve helped numerous people over the years. I got to put a lot of bad guys in jail over the years. It’s been a good career. I’ve been blessed that I’ve been able to have a career that I enjoyed and loved and was able to do something that I wanted to do.
“As sheriff, I’ve been fortunate to run the sheriff’s office the way I saw fit, to do the things that I wanted to do in law enforcement. I feel like I’ve accomplished those. I’ve had a good time here with the guys. I feel we have a professional department. The guys are trained properly and have the equipment that we need to operate with.”
A new Motorola radio system was acquired a few years ago, Copeland said, while two new towers were erected to improve communications.
“The old radio system had a lot of dead spots within the county and places where we couldn’t get out to receive or transmit,” he said. “As well, we could only talk to very few other departments. Now with the new system we have, if we have a state or national disaster, we’re hooked up with the (Missouri State) Highway Patrol. We can also talk to other agencies. We have that capability where can branch out and have correspondence with everybody that we need to.”
Copeland has seen much change over the years, including all vehicles being equipped with computers.
“It’s a long way from where I started in law enforcement 34 years ago,” he said. “We had a radio that had an ‘off’ and ‘on’ button. Now we have multifunctional radios, computers and cameras in the vehicles. I’ve seen law enforcement change quite a bit over the years.”
The advance of technology has been the biggest change, he said, but society also changed.
“I think because of Hollywood, television and video games, that family values have deteriorated,” he said. “I think those three things have devalued human life. You see serial killers now and mass shootings. We never had any of that 34 years ago.
“You don’t have the structure of a family upbringing now with a mom and a dad where they are teaching biblical principles and taking responsibility to bring up their child and not expecting school or somebody else to bring up the child. Things change.”
One of the unfortunate changes, Copeland said, is the revolving door of criminals that perpetuates the criminal justice system.
“We deal with the same people all the time,” he lamented. “It’s not unheard of for the same drug manufacturers to be arrested two, three and sometimes four times (and) for multiple search warrants to be served at the same residence multiple times.
“We see more and more child abuse all the time. Nobody seems to be married anymore; all the domestic violence instances we have. We’ll constantly have four to six or more domestic violences in a 24-hour period.”
Despite all of the bad in people, Copeland also remembers the good.
“I don’t want to sit here and sound negative and put a dismal outlook on everything. There are a lot of good people out there who are your neighbors and my neighbors. There are a lot of good, solid folks, God-fearing folks who are still doing the best they can do every day and taking care of their families and raising their families and working every day.”
Copeland offered advise for the next person to be elected sheriff.
“The sheriff’s office is not a training ground for somebody who wants to come in and be a sheriff,” he said. “I think the citizens need to look for somebody who has the experience, the proven record. There’s a lot of responsibility here, a lot of responsibility to the sheriff’s office, the employees, to the citizens, and it’s a big job.”
The office has four divisions. The patrol division is road deputies who are responsible for answering calls and responding to calls for service. The investigative division has seven detectives who he follow up to make the cases.
Twenty-one employees are in the jail, which typically houses about 100 prisoners at a time. The criminal and civil service department serves papers and transports prisoners to and from courts and other prisons.
“It’s a full-time job,” Copeland said. “I’m proud of all the officers we have and proud of everybody who works here and the way they are unselfish, their dedication, what they do day in and day out. Typically, there’s not much thanks for that.”
Filing for county offices begins at 8 a.m. today in the county clerk’s office and continues through March 29. Filing for statewide offices also runs the same dates in Jefferson City.
In addition to the sheriff’s position, citizens will elect District 1 and 2 associate commissioners, assessor, treasurer, public administrator, coroner and surveyor. All terms are for four years.